My family and I attended the much ballyhooed party at the Lincoln Memorial; apparently the authorities forgot to tell the public to stay home and watch it on television if they actually wanted to hear what was going on [front page, Jan. 1].

What started out as festive turned surly after it became apparent that only those in the "invite" stands were going to be able to hear what was being sung and said. Chants of "Turn it up!" and "We can't hear!" became booing when the images of the president and the first family were flashed on the jumbo screens.

Boredom and anger turned what was supposed to be a New Year's celebration into more of a mosh pit atmosphere. We couldn't even see the fireworks because of our Lincoln Memorial location. We saw smoke, but no fireworks.

I will stay home for the next "celebration" that is made to sound as though it is for all citizens, when in truth it is for political friends.

MARY SANTEN

Woodbridge

America's millennium? As I made my way to Washington on Dec. 31, I was excited about the great event that had been planned in my (the American populace's) honor.

I wish someone had warned me about the lack of respect the producers of this event had for the people attending. Will Smith, along with all the other performers, was obscured from view by a massive platform set up directly in front of the monument. Whose party was this anyway? A few hundred VIPs' or the American people's?

During the celebration we were reminded of Abraham Lincoln's words: of the people, by the people and for the people. What a pity that Lincoln's words were echoed in front of his own statue, but the people could not see. They were kept at a distance and forgotten.

DEBRA STONEKING

Stafford

Despite the pre-event buildup, Friday night's festivities were a disappointment that demonstrated the disparity between the political elite and the common citizen.

To ensure the safety of the first family and its friends, hundreds of thousands of citizens spent hours in line waiting for a frisk to pass through the overwhelmingly tight security, only to end up blocks from the Lincoln Memorial, the stage and even the few big screens.

Further, the exceptionally poor sound system left most of the ceremony unintelligible to a large percentage of the crowd. The frequent breaks in the program, no doubt intended to assuage the TV broadcast group, made it clear that the citizens functioned as a backdrop for a political statement.

Finally, as midnight drew near and the New Year countdown started late because of an overly long speech by the president, the crowd was thrilled by a well-executed pyrotechnic illumination of the Washington Monument and approximately 30 seconds of fireworks. The voices in the crowd then changed from joy to dismay as the speeches resumed for another 50 minutes. What the TV cameras didn't show was most of the crowd departing with perhaps only a fifth remaining until resumption of the fireworks for the finale at 12:58 a.m.

STEVEN KIEPE

Oak Hill, Va.